Laying sod in your yard is instantly gratifying. You can turn barren areas into an area with a perfect grass in a day. First things first, you will need to have the ground prepared to help the sod take root quickly. The soil needs to be loosened to a depth range between four and six inches. If you need to bring in additional soil to fill in low spots, we recommend either top soil with a sandy loam or river-silt. Fertilize the soil with a slow release, complete fertilizer. Follow the directions on the bag but do not water it in. This is not recommended from September 1st through April 15th.
It is important to remember sod comes in its own environment. It is very important to avoid leaving the sod moisture deprived for very long. Apply a lot of water to the sod within thirty minutes of laying the first piece. Leave your sprinkler in one place for two hours and then move it until the entire newly laid sod has been equally soaked.
Initially you will need to keep the sod wet for the first five to fourteen days depending on temperature. Do not let the sod dry out until the union between the sod and soil surface is firmly established. This means the roots have grown into the soil and the grass cannot easily be lifted. During the cool months, these instructions are not as crucial as sod will not require as much water.
For the first week water thoroughly every day. For the second week, water every other day. If it rains, it should be at least one inch before skipping a watering. After two weeks, water as needed. When the grass looks healthy and rooted, you may let it dry out some to promote root development.
The best time to water is in the morning, so less water is lost by evaporation. The worst time to water is in the evening, because the lawn stays wet all night and this encourages disease development. Also, lawns watered too frequently tend to develop shallow root systems, which may make the sod more susceptible to grub damage.
When the grass is 50% higher than you desired mowing height, it should be mowed. Mow often enough that you do not remove more than 1/3 of the blade at one time. Clippings are beneficial in that they return nutrients and organic matter to the soil. If grass is mowed on a timely schedule, clippings do not contribute to thatch.
Mole crickets are a true pest for homeowners in the south. They are omnivores, eating grubs, earthworms, bermudagrass and centipede grass. They will not bite your if you hold them in your hand, but they will try to dig through you as if your hand were soil. In large enough numbers, they can devastate your lawn. Mole crickets are nocturnal and live mostly underground, so it is unlikely that many of you have seen a mole cricket. It is highly probably that you have seen the signs of them and not known what caused it.
Signs of mole crickets
Mole crickets usually leave small mounds in the soil. They look like minature versions of a crawfish mound or like small mud volcanoes for those of you unfamiliar with mud bugs. There can also be trails of disturbed soil consisting of small pellets. This is from them moving around under the soil. If you see these, your can confirm your suspicions with a soapy water test. Mix 1-1/2 tablespoons of dish soap with 2 gallons of water and pour it over about four square feet of grass. Wait a few minutes and whatever bug is down there will rise to the surface so they don't drown. If it looks like the picture at the top of the page, you've identified the pest.
How to exterminate mole crickets
While the ugly bug shown at the top of the page is the most noticeable, it is their young that cause the most damage to your grass. Luckily, they are also the easiest to exterminate. Adult mole crickets can and will burrow deep into the ground at the first sign of danger from pesticides and wait it out for months. The young mole cricket nymphs aren't able to do the same. Usually early spring is when you will want to treat for these if you've ever had a problem before. This will be the most effective time. If you live in southern Louisiana, you are looking at a march application.
Mole crickets usually mate in fall and can be seen flying (yes they can fly) to find a mate. Mole crickets also hibernate deep in the soil in winter. Since they are away from the damaged area, treating for mole crickets at either of these times is ineffective.
Pest control products containing imidacloprid or fipronil are good for preventing a population from growing. They also provide long lasting control which will help since mole crickets can evade danger for extended periods. If you have a large active mole cricket problem, you should use pest control products containing bifenthrin. As with all pesticides, follow the product label first and foremost.
how to mow your lawn
This is one of the best things you can do for your lawn. It reduces soil compaction and thatch by removing small plugs of small plugs of soil throughout your yard. This allows more movement of air, water, beneficial insects and microbes.
When to aerate your lawn
You should core aerate in early spring, shortly after your warm season grass begins to green up. In the spring, be sure to irrigate your yard for the next week to ensure it does not dry out. The other time to do this is in the fall after it has started to cool down some. I do not recommend doing this in the middle of summer since grass can get stressed due to the extreme heat and lack of rain.
How to aerate your lawn
You can rent a machine to do this from nearly any rental store. If you have a large piece of property, there is a version you can drag behind a tractor or four wheeler. Do not use a tine aerator or spiked shoes, they actually compact the soil more. This can be a pretty physical task, so if you may want to look into hiring someone if this seem a bit much for you.
Use the machine in the same pattern as you would to mow your lawn. Make three to five passes in spring but only one to two passes if aerating during the fall. If you are aerating soil that is mostly clay, you will want to use a rake to remove as many of the plugs as you can. Other soil types are fine to leave on the lawn. The aeration cores left on your lawn will go away on their own when it rains or your water your lawn.
Why top dress
What soil to add
How to top dress
Top dressing is pretty simple. Get soil, throw soil, repeat, rake when finished. Below are a few ways to get this done.
The Hard Way
Wheelbarrow, a shovel and a rake. Simply move it to the area you want to spread it and use the shovel to fan it out. Estimate it will take around three pounds of top dressing per square yard. Keep the added soil to an added level of 1/4" to 1/3" inch. Much more than this and you will run the risk of killing some of your existing grass. When you are finished, you will need to use a rake to remove the soil that is resting on top of the grass itself. As you may notice, this will take a lot of time and Tylenol. The average size yard will take one person two or more days to finish.
The Better Way
If you can find one, rent a top dressing machine. While you still have to load the machine and rake the remaining loose soil, it will make this project unbelievable easier. The flaw in this plan is these are hard to find since most people do not do this to their yard.
The Easy Way
Hire a lawn company specializing in top dressing to do it. While this option is more expensive, it will save your weekend plus the days of recovery afterwards.
If your yard is healthy and full, don't worry about overseeding. Keep good cultural practices and doing what you were doing to keep it healthy in the first place. If your lawn is starting to thin or if there are other grasses growing, overseeding will help with both.
When to overseed
The best time to overseed is during the growing season for the seed you are putting down. For us this is between spring when temperatures are above 68 degrees and the early summer. You can still overseed in the middle of summer, but the grass will have less time to establish before winter and it will take more water due to the excessive heat. There is some debate on whether to overseed before or after top dressing. I tend to favor doing it after since there is a rick of burying it too deep if you overseed before top dressing.
Overseeding in spring and summer
Bermuda - Great for overseeding
Zoysia - Great for overseeding
Centipede - Only do this is there are are bare spots throughout your yard.
St. Augustine - Do not bother overseeding. If you have bare spots, use sod.
Overseeding in fall and winter
For all types of grasses, use a low growing rye grass to overseed your lawn in late fall. It will keep your lawn green all winter and will die off when it gets warm in spring.
How to overseed
You can overseed using a push spreader. Simply fill up the spreader, use the settings on the bag and keep a constant pace. Be cautious of where you spread the seeds (your flower beds) since grass will grow there.
JUST ADD WATER
Water your lawn immediately after and try to get a good five inches of water penetration into the soil. You will need to keep your lawn irrigated daily for the next half of a month to make sure the seeds germinate.
If you live in the Greater Baton Rouge, Greater New Orleans or anywhere in Southeast Louisiana, please feel free to call us at 225.752.2333
White clover is native to Europe and Asia and is now found throughout most of the United States. Clover does have some valuable uses. It is used to feed grazing animals in pastures. It gives a lush green look in winter with the added perk of flowers. It will also grow in areas with low nitrogen levels so there will not be bare ground showing. It has been used for erosion control. Unfortunately, it is not the type of plant most people want at their home. Here is how to kill the clover that is bothering you so much.
HOW TO KILL CLOVER IN YOUR LAWN
Clover is a perennial weed that will also spread seeds nearby. This means that if clover is left untreated, it will not only come back every year, but also have new clover growing beside it.
CULTURAL CONTROLS FOR CLOVER
A lot of clover is usually a sign of low nitrogen in your yard. This does not mean you should go overboard and add nitrogen now. Wait until late spring to early summer to do that. Clover needs sunlight to grow. If you maintain proper mowing heights for your lawn throughout the year, clover is less likely to spread in your yard.
CHEMICAL CONTROLS FOR CLOVER
There is clover in your yard, how do you get rid of it? Once clover is established, it can be treated using selective herbicides. Selective herbicides will only kill the weeds the product is design to kill while leaving the rest of the plants healthy.
The best time to treat clover would be either in spring or fall. Winter will work too, but starting in the fall would be best. Often it will take more than one application to get the clover amount to an acceptable level in your yard. If you broadcast the herbicide across your entire yard the first time, be sure to only spot spray the second. When dealing with selective herbicides, the amount of herbicide you use is very important. Too much and you have a dead yard, too little and the lawn was watered. Be sure to follow the label.
PRE-EMERGENT HERBICIDE FOR CLOVER
Unlike most other pre-emergents, it does have some post-emergent control. This means you put it out and it prevents you from having a bigger clover problem next time. If only putting it out once a year, try to make it early spring so it will remain active when the clover drops its seeds.
POST-EMERGENT HERBICIDE FOR CLOVER
Three-way herbicides containing 2,4-D, dicamba, mecoprop (MCPP)
Used on St. Augustine grass, Centipede grass, Zoysia grass and Bermudagrass. I personally find three way herbicides to work well on not only clover, but also many other broad leaf weeds. Some grasses have a lower recommended rate than others to reduce the chance of injury. Be sure to follow the instructions on the herbicide label.
This can be used on St. Augustine grass and Centipede grass. Be careful with this product as it can kill your lawn if used to often in a year.
Be sure to always follow the label's instructions for use when dealing with any pesticide. Be sure to wear the required protective equipment such as gloves, safety glasses etc. In the event of an injury, refer to the Material Safety Data Sheet for instructions on what to do.
HOW TO GET RID OF CLOVER GROWING IN PAVEMENT AREAS
This is a lot easier. Use roundup or herbicides with the active ingredient Glyphosate. If you have a recurring problem with clover in these areas, there are some great pre-emergent herbicides designed to keep bare areas weed free.
Bermuda grass is great for golf courses, sports fields, or other high foot traffic areas with a lot of sun. It is actually a great easy to maintain grass for your home if you don't have a lot of trees. It spreads quickly, is hardy and low maintenance. Although most people, for one reason or another, just do not seem to like it at their home. Dealing with Bermuda grass as a weed can be a real pain if you don't know how to manage it. There are also different approaches based on your type of grass. We will focus on the two main types of grasses people have in South Louisiana besides Bermuda grass: Centipede and St. Augustine.
Bermuda Grass Prevention
The best method is prevention. Once Bermuda is in your yard, it is usually and ongoing struggle for what feels like the rest of your life.
Centipede and Bermuda
If you have Centipede grass you are in luck. Use a selective herbicide with the active ingredient Sethoxydim to treat areas of your yard to kill Bermuda grass in your Centipede. Unfortunately this product will kill St. Augustine grass, so do not use it if you have St. Augustine grass.
Words of advice when using Sethoxydim.:
St. Augustine and Bermuda
If you have St. Augustine grass, you will have a more difficult time controlling Bermuda grass Allow your grass to be cut at four inches will help provide shade to slow down or possibly kill the Bermuda. Large patches of Bermuda grass should be sprayed with herbicides containing Glyphosate (ie Roundup) and then fill in the bare area with sod. Applying Glyphosate and using sod is expensive and should only be done in areas that have been completely taken over with Bermuda grass If you are dedicated to getting rid of the Bermuda while keeping your St. Augustine, you can always suspend mesh landscape fabric or netting over the area for a few days to a week. St. Augustine is very tolerant of shade while Bermuda is not.
Surrendering to Bermuda
Some people give up struggling to keep their preferred grass and decide to let Bermuda overrun their yard. If this is your situation here's a few tips. Bermuda loves nitrogen and water in full sun. This will let it spread like the weed it is. Keep your Bermuda cut short, about 0.5 inches to 1 inch, preferably with a reel mower. There is a herbicide called Celsius that works great for taking care of most weeds in Bermuda.
What is core aeration?
Core aeration is the removal and replacement of small plugs soil and thatch from your lawn. This allows air, among other things, to travel easier through your soil.
Reduce Soil Compaction
This one is a given. By removing cores of soil from the ground, you have allowed more room for the top soil in your yard to spread out. It is still the same amount of soil, only looser. This by itself may not seem all that important, but it is for the reasons explained below. It is also easier on your joints.
Improve Water and Fertilizer Absorption
After aerating your yard, you should notice less water run off when irrigating your yard. Since the soil is less compact, it will now allow water, fertilizer, beneficial bacteria and air to move more freely.
Improve Overall Plant Health
The plants will be healthier since beneficial elements, such as water, fertilizer, etc., are more readily available for the roots to uptake. Additionally, since the soil is looser, the root system will be able to develop more easily thus making your plant more able to compete for water in times of drought from weeds.
Beneficial bacteria will be able to move more freely in the soil and decompose thatch buildup. Thatch is simply a buildup of dead plant material between the soil and grass. A thin layer of thatch, less than 1/2" is beneficial and should not be seen as an issue. Thatch does not hold water or nutrition that is easily attainable for grass, thus making your turf have to extend its roots further to reach the soil. This leads to the grass not being able to extend its roots deep into the soil where there will be more access to water during times of drought. Thatch is also a staging point for many yard damaging fungus and a breeding ground for insects. By reducing the thatch, you reduce the chance of both fungus and insect damage.
What type of aerator to use?
Hollow Tine Aerator
A hollow tine aerator is my only recommendation for aeration. The ideal aerator to use should have a 3/4" diameter tine, 4" deep with the spacing between tines 6" apart. If you are a DIY person, you can rent a motorized one for small areas or one to drag behind a tractor for larger areas. My experience with renting a motorized one was back pain for a week. The rentals rarely have an adjustable height and shake you like a jackhammer. Be sure you have some pain reliever and a hot bath ready.
This only leads to additional soil compaction. This will make the problem worse, so please do not do it.
When to aerate?
The best two times to aerate are just after the first mowing in spring and in fall before your grass goes dormant. Be sure to make three to four passes with the aerator in the spring and only one or two passes with it in the fall. Do not aerate when the grass is dormant since you will only make it a more inviting place for weeds. There are exceptions to this. If there is a high traffic area, feel free to aerate monthly in the growing season.
How to aerate?
First, move anything that can be broken out of the way. Anything that can't be moved, irrigation heads, landscape lighting, drain covers, etc., should be flagged so you don't accidentally break them. If you have an irrigation system, let it run through a lite cycle while you flag the head. The aerator will work better if the soil is a little wet. Next, use the aerator like you would mow your yard, basically. The difference is a mechanical aerator will drag you around, but it is designed to do so. There should also be two handles, one to engage the tines and one to lift the tines. Be sure to have them disengaged and lifted when going over concrete or tile or when generally moving the machine. Now just make your desired number of passes and your done. Your yard may look like a large herd of dogs went through it at the moment, but once the soil dries and it gets some water, it will go back to looking normal again.
What else should do you with aeration?
Top dressing your soil with sand or additional top soil is a great idea immediately following core aeration. The new topdressing will help fill in the holes and refresh your soil, improving pH and drainage.
If you are in an area when with highly alkaline soil like most of Baton Rouge, you will need to increase the acidity of your soil. Soil dwelling bacteria break down sulfur over time and lower pH, but they are not very quick. Applying sulfur based products after aeration gives more access to the bacteria causing a lower pH in less time.
Apply Barrier Products After
You should not apply any pre-emergent herbicides or long term insecticides to your yard until a few days after aerating. Usually these products create a thin barrier that prevents their target pest from affecting your yard. If you aerate your yard after you apply one of these, there will punch holes throughout your barrier and will have wasted your time and money putting them out in the first place.
Soon your lush green yard will become an off yellow, tan color as the temperature cools and grass goes dormant for the winter. The trade off for the dull looking grass is it rarely needs any maintenance until spring. Well with the right type of rye grass you can get a very vibrant green yard and still not have to cut it during the winter. Sounds great right? Well here's what you need to know.
Pick the right rye grass seed
There are hundreds of different types of rye grass seed that fall into two main categories: annual and perennial. Luckily there will be between two to six choices at your local hardware store, making the decision easier on you. Annual rye grass will have to be replanted every year while perennial rye grass will reseed itself and come back on its own. Annual rye grass does perform better in warmer temperatures. Perennial has better shade tolerance than annual. In my experience, it takes around three years of seeding perennial to see it look consistent on its own. My opinion is to choose a low growing annual rye grass.
Spread it out at the right time
Rye seed needs to go out either in late September or early October depending on weather. The temperature should regularly be between 68 degrees to 77 degrees. Heat kills rye grass, so be sure to not put it out too early. Rye grass also dies in very cold weather, but that shouldn't be a problem in southern Louisiana. Be sure to not put out a weed preventative herbicide before your grass has started to grow. Also, try to rid your yard of weeds before applying seed. Not only will it look better, but the grass will have less competition for soil nutrition and sunlight.
How to put the seed out
Usually the bag of seed you purchased will tell you what setting to put your wheel based spreader to for optimum coverage. It is best to use a standard wheel based spreader so you get even coverage across your yard. Also, it is very important to keep a consistent speed when pushing the spreader or there will be patch results. You don't want part of your yard to look great while patches look like they were missed completely.
Most spreaders throw seed forward and to one side. Have the seed thrown away from both landscape beds and cracks in your concrete. Wherever the seed lands, you will have grass growing in the winter. Water your yard when finished.
Rye grass care
You will need to keep your yard watered, every other day, for a little over a week to allow the rye grass to germinate properly. Be sure to do this in the morning so your yard has time to dry out. Rye grass does not need much water beside rain after the germination period. In fact, excess watering will cause your rye grass to rot and can also promote fungus growth.
While the temperatures are great for germinating rye grass, they are also perfect for fungus as well. Applying a preventative fungicide used when applying the seed will do wonders for your yard. Not only will it protect your rye grass, but also your warm season turf.
If you choose a rye grass that grows tall, you will want to keep it below 2 inches to avoid turf disease throughout winter. I would recommend choosing one that doesn't grow that tall. It will just be so much easier to maintain. Now all that is left is to enjoy having the nicest looking grass in the neighborhood all winter long.